In a global economy, success comes by embracing the local

Posted October 18, 2016

“We’re in a shift unlike anything we’ve seen in 700 years.” Jason Broadwater, this Friday’s keynote speaker for the Iowa APA 2016 conference, believes that American towns are at the center of an explosion of creativity and connectivity, much like Florence was during the European Renaissance.

In an era where we can access everything and everyone across the globe, one might expect the local community to lose cultural importance. But in fact, Broadwater claims, it has been the opposite. There is a “hyper-localization” movement happening, where many people want to do and buy everything local (think of the recent proliferation of local micro-breweries, for example, or the renewed interest in local food). Even as our world-view expands ever outward, we look back to our communities to help us form our personal identity and develop a strong sense of place. Community planners and advocates, he says, must capitalize on that movement by engaging in “place-making.”

Place-making refers to projects that highlight unique local assets and culture, providing residents with stronger connections to the community. Many communities across Iowa are already doing this, in a variety of ways: renovating a plaza to memorialize the city’s rock ‘n roll connections, establishing a cultural district celebrating its entrepreneurial history, installing a series of artistic sculptures along a trail, or designing buildings with a common architectural style, inspired by the community’s Dutch heritage, just to name a few. Broadwater argues that place-making must be a central part of our economic development strategy, or we risk missing out on the promise of the new cultural Renaissance.

Rock Hill, South Carolina, the primary case study in Broadwater’s book “Old Town, New World,” used place-making to turn its fate around after the flight of the textile industry wiped out 25% of local jobs. With their future unclear, Rock Hill decided to invest in their identity, and are now celebrating $350 million of private sector development within a 1.5 mile radius, in a community of just 65,000. Broadwater will share the secrets behind that turn-around and more at his keynote address on Friday at the Iowa APA 2016 Conference. Don’t miss it!


Broadwater will bring his message to the 2016 APA Iowa Chapter Conference on October 21 during the Friday plenary session at 11 am. You can still register for the conference on site at the PZAZZ! Convention & Event Center in Burlington, starting Wednesday at 10 am.

In a global economy, success comes by embracing the local